The Perennial Philosophy
Griffiths explains, “We have to learn to discriminate within each tradition between that which belongs to the universal religious tradition of mankind (often called the perennial philosophy) and that which belongs to its own limited and particular point of view.”
The more that I study other religions, the more that I discover striking similarities, including their core beliefs, their behavioral norms, and their mystical practices.
A core belief that is common to almost all religions is the Golden Rule:
|Buddhism||Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
|Hinduism||This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you.
|Islam||No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.
|Judaism||What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellowman. This is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.
Talmud, Shabbat 3id
Behavioral norms that are common to almost all religions are character traits such as fidelity, honesty, humility, kindness, moderation, nonviolence, and selflessness.
Mystics, including Christian mystics, describe their mystical experiences in similar ways. Most report a sense of oneness with all creation, as if God is in everyone and everything. Many sense that they receive a higher knowledge, that is too overpowering to recall, and many sense that they are held by a higher power, that is too overwhelming to sustain.
Although mystics report that they encounter God, they almost never encounter a person, and they rarely perceive a separation between creator and creature. In many accounts, mystics say that they knew no physical limits at all, similar to an out-of-body experience.
To fully appreciate the commonality and significance of the perennial philosophy, we have to view religious doctrines as systems of belief, rather than statements of facts, and we have to recognize the ambiguity and impermanence and recency of many doctrines.